More Cloud Computing In The Borough’s Future?

Ok now that the Borough of West Chester is safely in Microsoft’s “cloud” for email services we can’t possibly stop there (can we). Next in line is Microsoft’s “Sharepoint” service which will allow employee’s to safely, securly and easily access their files from anywhere with an internet connection.

This new service could play a large part in retiring yet another server (Citrix). There are some challenges here because applications do not run through Sharepoint. However many of us only need access to our files (documents) so there is alot of advantages to this type of cloud service.

Another strong advantage to this type of cloud service is the storing and availability of HR (human resoource) documents and other shared files everyone needs access to. Even public files can be stored here for our residents!

Yet another intriguing advantage regarding Microsoft’s “Sharepoint” service is that not only does it allow users to access their files from anywhere but it also has the ability to intigrate the files within your Microsoft Outlook client!

During the next couple of months a few employees will be selected to help me beta test this service and evaluate it’s potential.

The Borough’s “Sharepoint” portal is already up and running so stand-by for more information. If you are interested in helping to beta test this new service please contact me at wmann@west-chester.com.

If you want to learn more about Microsoft’s “Sharepoint” go here to learn more.

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Internet Speed Enhancement

I hope that everyone has noticed an improvement in internet speed on their workstations in the office starting last week. As part of the move to the cloud for email services I was able to improve the internet speed for all DHCP clients from 3mbps to 25 mbps.

Enjoy workmates.

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June Technology Class

I hope to schedule out next employee technology class for mid to late June 2011. The class will cover our new email cloud services in detail which will be a lot of fun. if anyone has any other topic ideas please post your ideas to me by commenting here.

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Blogger Status Report

As everyone is aware this blog has been very quite lately. For all of my dedicated readers I apologize. These past several weeks (6-8 I believe) have found the majority of my attention with with Microsoft in an effort to migrate our mail services to their cloud. For the most part this transition has been accomplised, although I am still working on getting out “corporate compliate” archiving up and running.

I thank everyone for their patience during this process, especially my entire communication officer staff who continue to amaze me with their professional and independent work ethic!

I hope to make more regular blog entries from this point forward. Keep your fingers crossed!

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Report from the Cloud

Ok it’s been about 2 weeks now since the Borough of West Chester moved their email services from an on-premises exchange server to Microsoft’s cloud with “Exchange Online“. So far so good. During these first 2 weeks we have had everything. As we all know nothing is 100% perfect, except perhaps “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn” (I will explain this later). After migrating everyone over to the cloud and on the eve of heading to Disney World for a much needed break Microoft began experiencing what they call “service degregation”. This meant that mail flow during the early hours on May 12, 2011 stopped. The good news was that I noticed this at about 5:50 AM and quickly contacted Microsoft Online Support. A technician reported that they were aware of the problem and working on it. A work-around was offered but before anyone arrived in the office the “cloud” was back in service.

New technology can be a little scary and no one really likes change. However I believe that today’s world economic situation demands bold and visionary decisions in respect to keeping cost down while striving to offer the best that technology has to offer. The “cloud”, I believe will be critical during the next several years, providing organizations with the ability to keep technology cost down while (at the same time) providing high end technological services.

As the “service incident” on May 12, 2011 demonstrates nothing is easy and we will need to learn to “roll with the punches” during these hard economic times if we are to move even more services to the cloud in the future.

We can do this! In the decades past, business was done without the internet and email services. If these services are down from time to time, pick the phone up, reach out and talk to eachother. I do not expect service interruptions to be normal, however we should always be prepared. Keeping cost down is mission critical in these times, and working together the Borough of West Chester will find success and efficent government.

The Borough of West Chester maintains an information technology cost (capitol & salary) that is only 1% of it’s annual budget. That is something we can be very proud of. Migrating adapatable services to the cloud will help the borough to sustain such a small cost in this area which is something every taxpayer will be thankful for.

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Borough E-Mail Moves to the Cloud Today!

Today might have seemed just like another rainy Wednesday to you. But it was a BIG day for me. After months of research, planning, preparation and living through “co-existence”, today, May 4, 2011 the on-premises exchange (e-mail) server was shut down, hopefully for the final time. I crossed my fingers after shutting the server down and was elated to see mail flowing normally. After a tweak here and there other services that we have all come to rely on such as fax-scan-copy to email, unified messaging and help desk work orders were all up and in service as well.

The magic of the cloud is this. Without having to maintain a mail server and replacing it on average every 4 years at a cost of $20,000 the Borough now has more efficient mail services including enhanced security, superior data protection, liability protection and more ways than ever of connecting in to our email services.

Some of these enhancements include

• 14 days back-up of email is expanded to 10 year compliance archiving.

• As opposed to our email residing on one server at our facility, our email is written simultaneously to 6 “department of defense” certified data centers located at various locations across the United States.

• Enhanced liability protection because “open records” rules require local government to maintain files, including email for information and court requests. The compliance archiving will protect our government because these files will accessible upon request.

• Built-in spam filtering as opposed to having to pay a third party for this protection.

• Our partnership with Microsoft will keep the borough up to date with the highest standards of office productivity while controlling cost.

• The Borough has an information technology staff of one. Moving the e-mail service to Microsoft’s cloud will continue to support maintaining a minimal staff while providing effective technology services.

There are many more exciting things on the horizon in reference to our move to Microsoft’s Cloud like Microsoft 365.
Standby for more news from cloud and enjoy. Boy is it comfortable up here.

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The "Usama bin Laden" Virus

Hackers, Spammers and Scammers all love a BIG story, and there certainly is no bigger news item now then the recent take down of Public Enemy Number 1, Usama bin Laden. These hackers and other bad eggs are using this news story to intice people into downloading a file in order to watch a video. This is a HOAX and if you follow the link, download a file from one of these messages you will infect your computer, or become a spamming machine. This hoax is especially active on Facebook at this time.

Be aware that the United States Government has not released any photos or video from their recent operation.

Often the message, either through an email or a social networking site such as Facebook will have a link to a website it wants to redirect you to. Often stating it’s an “official source”, such as CNN. This is a ploy. Ignore it.

Also be aware that even the best anti-virus software can not prevent a human being from clicking on and downloading an infected file.

Here is the official FBI news release in respect to this recent hoax.

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Cloudy Skies Ahead

This was a big week for the borough as it relates to IT. This week brought the beginning of email cloud computing. After a couple of months of investigation and discussion we headed into the cloud earlier this week!

After migrating myself on Tuesday to “the cloud”” a few other were migrated as the week came to a close. The first “victims” included the Police Records clerks, Communication Officers Widmayer, Jones, Lt. Morris and finally Staci King. All were migrated into the Microsoft Cloud without incident. Next week I hope to move the Housing Office, Finance Office, Recreation Office, Borough Council, and a couple more communication officers into the cloud.

Many have asked me recently “why are we moving into the cloud”? Here are some quick answers to these questions:

Why Move Into the Cloud?
1. Less cost to the borough because of reduced hardware and licensing.
2. More efficent data protection.
3. Improved archiving (14 days to 10 years).
4. Ability to continue sustaining a strong ROI (return on investment) for IT.

As I go through this process I will meet with everyone to talk about this exciting change.

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Exploring Cluster One

I realize that there is no information here that can really help you in a technical way but I found this video of Pink Floyd’s “Cluster One” matched with some amazing images from the Hubble telescope. It is awe inspiring. Watch this, relax and remember that the universe is unbelievably and unknowingly mass and our problems are nothing in comparison. This piece of music is simply Gilmour’s guitar and Rick Wright’s keyboards. Genius.

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Backing Up Your Files with MOZY

All this talk of the cloud has me revisiting cloud services for the home user. One of the most popular “cloud services” today is in the area of remote backups. As the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has sadly demonstrated, natural disasters do strike, usually without warning. If a natural disaster, fire or theft was to occur to you and your computer was unavailable or destroyed are your files safe?

Because our computers are becoming more and more critical remote backup service providers have been cropping up everywhere these past few years. The Borough of West Chester has been remotely backing up critical data files for years. Should you?

If you store financial files, tax documents, letters, family photos and video you probably should be backing up remotely. There are many providers with many price points. Be sure to check these providers out and protect your files today.

What about Mozy?
Mozy is a great backup service. This service lets you store files online and retrieve them remotely, which is all you really need from an online storage service.

The real reason that Mozy is attractive as an online storage solution is the price; this service’s subscription is practically unbeatable. Another advantage for using this service is the strong security features. Because it is designed to be a backup service, this service has a lot of security measures in place that other online storage services don’t have. If you want to make sure that your data is safe, this service is one of the best places to store it.

Regardless of what you call the service or what it was initially designed to be, this service is a spectacular choice. The combination of cheap storage space with useful features and strong security make this service the perfect place to store files, photos, videos, documents and anything you want to safely store outside of your home computer.

Another great ability of Mozy is that you can back up to 3 computers and remote (usb) drives. Many services such as Carbonite charge additions fees for devices and drives outside of the primary computer. This cost can add up.

Cost for Mozy’s Services
2GB for free
125GB, up to 2 computers for $9.99 per month
You can learn more about Mozy at mozy.com.

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